Category Archives: usability

I wrote a book about governance: ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersWhen an intranet loses its usefulness over time, and people become disengaged and end up working around it rather than through it, I often find that the strategy and governance have been neglected.

Even a strong and appropriate strategy will founder if the governance isn’t in place to execute it.

I see governance as the foundation of a great intranet, and by ‘great’ I mean an intranet that is useful, useable, and supports the organisation’s goals and people’s needs.

I often blog about intranet governance, but my brand new book offers a lot more than I could ever drip-feed via short posts.  Writing a book has helped crystallise my thinking around governance, and delve deep into my past experience as an intranet manager, and as a consultant.

Take a look at my book now – it’s called ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’ and I mean for it to be relevant to intranets, collaboration, digital workplace and mobile workspace governance, while focussing on intranets.

I’m so pleased to have it published through Intranätverk, it’s been great to work with Kristian Norling and his team.  Seeing the final book on my tablet has made the months of writing all worth the effort.  I’m thrilled to be able to offer you my experience, guidance, and tips and hope you’ll consider my book a toolkit to better governance and a better intranet.

Please take a look at what the book offers you and your organisation – this is a ‘business book’ that should help organisations of every size, but I also hope it’s of interest to individual practitioners and ‘lone intranet managers’. I think this book can support you.

* Digital success or digital disaster? – Book available now.

* Follow me on Twitter – let me know what you think!

I agree the digital revolution is cultural, not technological, and….

In Gerry McGovern’s latest post he says ‘Digital transformation is cultural transformation first and foremost. Some time ago, I dealt with an organization that had just installed collaborative software. The problem was that the employees saw no benefit in collaborating. Surprise, surprise, collaboration didn’t happen. Collaboration, first and foremost, is a cultural thing, not a technological thing.’

While I agree with Gerry as far as he goes, I also believe the type of governance deployed for collaborative content can be a major barrier to people adopting these tools.  Too often the governance used for accredited content e.g. policies and news articles, that are official and factual is also tried (and fails) for collaborative content.

A more ‘light touch’ form of governance is needed to remove the barriers that prevent people wanting to share their ideas or offer suggestions that may help someone with a work problem.  Here are some examples of what I mean:

  1. Posting on a blog or contributing to a discussion group should not need you to ask for permission before you start.  It should be ‘on demand’ so there is no delay between when someone needs to use a collaboration tool and being  able to.  Often the need is urgent and passes quickly so any barrier preventing its use could mean the content is lost forever.
  2. You should not need formal training before you use the collaboration tool.  A) the tool should be so easy to use it isn’t needed and B) understanding how to comply with the publishing standards such as ownership and content review dates shouldn’t be required.
  3. Usability and design shouldn’t be something you need to bother with.  The important thing is your content.  Make sure the template you use has the right functionality that people can just start using and understand easily.
  4. Adapt and embed as many of your publishing standards that are relevant to collaboration into the templates e.g. navigation menus, field for contributor to enter their personal details.

Taking this approach shows how the culture has changed from a ‘command and control’ view of governance many years ago for a limited amount of corporate content.  Now, many people can use a wide range of collaboration tools to publish their views and opinions and be comfortable with the experience and knowledge that the content is managed appropriately.

The governance adopted fits the cultural revolution and helps, not hinders, it.  Long may that continue!

10 best intranet designs…but you need good governance first!

When Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) announced the best intranets of 2015 (hats off to Verizon as 3 times winners!) they said “While intranet teams continue to grow they simultaneously streamline processes and work faster, resulting in innovative designs. Common feature trends include: responsive design, search filters, flat design, and mega menus, to name a few.”

What did become clear to me is these intranets did not win by luck.  What NN/g didn’t say this is also because they have good governance, applied effectively, to build the foundations for well designed (and managed) intranets.

What do I mean by good governance?  Here are a few practical examples:

1. Have a clear strategy and direction set.  This should be approved by your stakeholders who help its implementation by openly supporting it.
2. Have a governance hierarchy setting out the roles and responsibilities for people involved with the intranet.
3. Develop publishing standards, especially for Usability, based on business requirements.
4. Most importantly, have the means to combine all these features of governance in a great way that results in the wonderful examples we can see with the winners.

These intranets didn’t win by accident but through managing their intranets well.  Good governance leads to great user experiences!

Publishing content: Use it, don’t abuse it!

Content that is easy to use does not appear like that by magic.  It is having standards on usability, supported by training and guidance, that helps to make this happen.

Many organisations find it difficult to see the benefits from publishing standards.  I remove the barriers to show the benefits from each publishing standard in this series of posts.  Publishing standards aim to:

  • Reduce the risk of sensitive information leaks
  • Improve the overall user experience
  • Make people using your intranet more satisfied with it
  • Improve people’s productivity
  • Improve people’s quality of work

Information must be usable and valuable to people who need to use it.  Features and functionality need to make it easier for people not just implemented for the sake of it. They should help people to share views, discover other people and their skills, find the right information and use what they find with the minimum of effort and time taken.

Your publishing standard should encourage employees to engage and influence the look and feel of your intranet as well as sites, applications, and tools. Embracing this approach through research, feedback with clear and transparent methods will help embed this and help to improve the overall consistency of your intranet user experience.

Benefits

Knowing that you are helping people to use information easily on your intranet gives three main benefits:

  1. People using your intranet will have an easier and better experience. This will encourage people to use it more frequently and extensively because the intranet is consistent and usable and meets their needs
  2. You can encourage your publishers to use the publishing templates with the usable design, layout, features and functionality be showing that more will use view their information.
  3. Your organisation can be reassured the investment made in your intranet is justified by the increased use made by people to help with their work.

Looking under the intranet bonnet

When you buy a brand new car, what is it that impresses you first?  Is it the colour?  Maybe the shape?  Or the style of the interior?  That is what a new intranet can be like; a good design, nice graphics and maybe some dynamic images that catch your eye.

However, what will most likely make you decide to buy is what is under the bonnet.  How reliable is your car?  How comfortable is it for you as the driver or passenger?  How economical will it be to run?  Again, this is what an intranet can be like.

Have you compared a brand new car with a recently launched or re-launched intranet?  There are many similar features you need to consider.  Like a car, you want an intranet that will:

  • perform well every time and be reliable
  • give a great experience and meet or exceed expectations
  • be easy to use with no training needed
  • need minimal maintenance with just routine services
  • give great value for the investment made

People love to see a well-designed site and to use a well-structured intranet but it is the content and applications that are contained within them that will keep people coming back repeatedly to use it. That means people are confident in the integrity and reliability of what they use. How can you achieve that? Using publishing standards that are part of a wider governance framework can make a critical difference.

Publishing standards are the foundation to base your intranet’s user experience on. These standards meet a variety of requirements. They apply to different types of content and tools. If your intranet transforms into a digital workplace applying standards appropriately is critical to maintain that consistency that encourages people to use it.

Over the next few posts, I want to cover these publishing standards.  Please leave me a comment for any you especially want me to cover.

How to succeed with mobile collaboration

On day 2 of the WCMS14 conference I ran a workshop about mobile collaboration. People can help each other or can ask for help to collaborate. Having mobile access means you can do this whenever you need to and not have to wait any more. To achieve this there are four areas to focus on:

  1. Make it easy
  2. Manage it smartly
  3. Technology has to meet business needs
  4. Involve people with mobiles

1. Make it easy

The main point is to create an overall consistent experience for people whatever device they use. With more mobile devices than traditional PCs being sold now, organisations should put the need of mobile people first.
By removing the barriers, mobile users don’t need extra logins to be able to collaborate online. It should also be possible to collaborate while offline and the tool synchronise and update automatically.
Research with mobile users what they need most to help them collaborate online, what experience it needs to be and identify tools with the best adoption rates and understand why.

Manage it smartly

It is important that any governance is built to help people collaborate while mobile and not hinder this aim. By extending existing publishing standards to cover mobile use appropriately you continue with one governance framework. The same applies to roles and responsibilities for content and app owners as well as intranet managers.
The findability of content is critical. Having one search engine that covers all the information architecture helps to achieve this. The decision over whether you have one version of the content or app which is responsive to different designs or different versions for each size screen will depend on the information architecture you develop and on security needs.
How long is it before information become knowledge? Your answer to that will decide whether all your collaborative content stays online and is searchable or is archived after a period of time or inactivity or removed permanently. There are no right or wrong answers but you do have to decide what is best for your organisation.

Technology has to meet business needs

Make sure you have the right solution for the right business requirements. This means being very clear what you need before you start to research the technology that can meet your business needs. It will probably also mean you don’t choose the top solution, partly due to the costs, but also because it provides features and functions that you have no immediate or foreseeable need for.
Any technology for mobile collaboration bought or developed needs to be configurable and shown to work with existing systems and platforms.
You need to consider how many operating systems your organisation will support for the different mobile devices used for mobile collaboration. This needs to cover the issue of BYOD. A balance needs to be struck which may be something like x number of operating systems will be guaranteed to give a good mobile user experience and support y mobile devices. You can choose other mobile devices but you should not expect to be guaranteed a good mobile experience.

Involve people with mobiles

You should not assume what collaboration tools people with mobile devices need. You need to research their needs not just make something accessible from a mobile device and say the experience is good enough.
Involve people at the earliest stage of developing the user experience. As soon as the development is good enough for basic use it should be thrown open to mobile users to test out. They can feedback any problems or improvements that will help them to collaborate better to be acted upon.
A perpetual beta development status can be adopted for the mobile collaboration tools to avoid long delays in improvements, the need for major re-launches. Small, incremental, changes can be made quickly based on clear feedback and involvement from mobile users.
Lastly the testing can be a formal User Acceptance testing approach or more informal and open to anyone with a mobile device to use at any time. The process needs to be transparent and a playground/sandpit available where all development can be tested out. This may need IT to change its approach!

Summary

  1. Remove barriers that prevent adoption
  2. Have one governance framework
  3. Right mobile collaboration tools that meet needs
  4. Involve people who use mobile

 

Improve collaboration to increase employee engagement

This week I will be running a workshop on mobile collaboration at the World Class Mobile and Social-Enabled Enterprises event on 5 and 6 June in Frankfurt, Germany.  While I will be focusing on how to make it easier to collaborate while mobile, this post covers the wider area of collaborating online.  Most importantly how it can increase employee engagement and how that benefits an organisation.

Many people are now very savvy about how they use the internet to share knowledge, build up contacts, help solve a problem.  This especially can apply to new recruits who choose your organisation to work for.

There are four factors you need to consider when improving how people collaborate online that can increase employee engagement:

  • Easy to use tools: remove any barrier that may prevent people using these tools.  If there is one, people tend to use it as a reason not to use it!
  • Improve the culture: make it easy for people to share problems and want to share their knowledge and be recognised for doing this.
  • Change how people work: empower people and allow them to collaborate when they need to – this means considering mobile and remote working rather than always working at one place.
  • The bottom line: be able to measure the benefits to your organisation – increased sales, more productivity, higher customer service.

My first-hand experience at BT and from working with clients is you can increase employee engagement because people want to work for an organisation that values collaboration.  It is your approach which is critical!

You can out more information on how to improve collaboration to increase employee engagement to help you